Geneva meet told Kenya ‘glossing’ over torture

May 16, 2013 10:31 am
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The report presented by Attorney General Githu Muigai during the 50th session was according to CAT giving a false impression that the laws against torture benefit ordinary Kenyans/FILE
The report presented by Attorney General Githu Muigai during the 50th session was according to CAT giving a false impression that the laws against torture benefit ordinary Kenyans/FILE
GENEVA, Kenya, May 16 – The government of Kenya has been questioned over a report that it presented before the Committee Against Torture (CAT) in Geneva on Wednesday.

The report presented by Attorney General Githu Muigai during the 50th session was according to CAT giving a false impression that the laws against torture benefit ordinary Kenyans.

The members questioned why numerous crucial laws exist but are not applied to stop abuse of human rights through torture.

“There is the official side which is different from the reality at the grassroots. The official side of Kenya shines. Kenya has groundbreaking laws and many bills are still in the pipeline. It has carried out important legislation to almost 100 percent. But it is still staggering, “CAT member Satyabhoosun Gupt Domah argued.

According to Domah, laws alone will not protect human rights and prevent torture unless the government implements them. “Laws themselves do not serve. Passing laws is the beginning of public affairs and it is not the end.”

He explained that despite having the potential to prevent abuse of human rights and punish perpetrators, torture and brutal treatment continues to be the norm and on a worsening scale compared to years before the post election violence in 2008.

“One would have expected a new era but there’s outcry and the situation is getting worse. The more it changes the more it gives the same picture,” he asserted.

The members also discredited police, accusing them of massive impunity, torture, corruption and other malpractices that degrade human rights.

He said as a result, Kenyans have lost confidence in the police force and attributed it to the killing of 42 policemen in Baragoi as a sign of retaliation against police.

Though the committee appreciated that Kenya took care of Somali refugees, he pointed at particular cases where police arrested refugees at a Kenyan camp robbed them and also harassed a Somali journalist before beating him up.

Kenya was also questioned over police reforms and accused of chopping powers of the Independent Police Oversight Authority in which the government was further accused of recycling the same leadership under the guise of police reforms.

“Is the committee properly resourced so that it can carry out its functions effectively? Are you attempting to bring a change in the police oversight authority? Is there an amendment to curtail powers given to the authority,” the member queried.

Another CAT member also asked why police are allowed to investigate themselves. “Police investigating themselves… there is an impression of could they be fair or impartial.”

The members further complained that many people were languishing in deplorable conditions in the Kenyan prisons and did not even have access to medical care.

The government of Kenya was also questioned for refusing to ensure the family of a woman shot in Mathare was compensated. “Why do you ask the citizen to ask for compensation, why not just offer? Why do you send them back? It is for the State to recognize to accept, apologise and to pay”.

AG Githu Muigai in his report said the woman was shot by a stray bullet and she was asked to pursue the judicial process to get compensation.

Kenya was also faulted for failing or delaying in compensating other victims that have suffered at the hands of the national security officers.

The members also quizzed Kenya over cases of attacks and killings in various parts of the country citing the Tana Delta clashes that left over 200 people dead and others that have been taking place.

“The attacks are now even in a bigger scale and they are still continuing, can you give us more information on this,” Domah asked the government.

Kenya was further hard pressed to explain why there were no comprehensive investigations of cases where people have been killed or tortured.

There was also a question to the government to explain further how people escaped from the Mathari hospital last week wondering if conditions in the hospital are up to standard.

Muigai will make responses to the issues raised on Thursday afternoon.

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